Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive Mini arrives in September

Whether you call it the Genesis or the Mega Drive, Sega’s 16 bit system holds a special place in the hearts of many a gamer who came of age in the 80s and 90s. Like the NES and Super Nintendo before it, the console that gave us a ring-hoarding hedgehog is about to get miniaturized.

Sega announced the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini last year, only to delay sales in order to fine tune the retro console. This week at Sega Fest, however, the once-mighty game maker firmed up the machine’s release date — and game selection. The Mini is due out just ahead of the holidays on September 19, carrying 40 pre-installed titles.

Along with the release date, the company announced a quarter of the titles, carrying some familiar names like Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, Altered Beats and ToeJam and Earl (full list below).

When it hits, the system will run $80 here in the States, the same price as the SNES Classic.

The full game selection (so far) is as follows:

  • Ecco the Dolphin

  • Castlevania: Bloodlines

  • Space Harrier II

  • Shining Force

  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

  • ToeJam & Earl

  • Comix Zone

  • Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Altered

  • Beast Gunstar Heroes

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EC Weekly: Gaming, crypto, shipping and the multiple future strategies of tech

Niantic EC-1

Greg Kumparak published the first part of his planned four part EC-1 series on Niantic yesterday, focusing on the founding story of the AR/gaming unicorn from Keyhole and Google Earth to a complicated spinout from Alphabet. Lots of great nuggets on how companies get formed and built, but one I particularly enjoyed was this one:

Like most companies, Google doesn’t like when employees leave. Especially employees who ran key parts of the company for years. Leaving means competition. Leaving means potential opportunities lost.

John [Hanke, CEO of Niantic] eventually sat down with Larry Page to figure out what it’d take to keep him within Google . They talked about John’s interest in augmented reality. They talked about a book called Freedom™ by David Suarez, which centers around an out-of-control AI that taps a network of real-world operatives to control the world (the earliest hints of Niantic’s first game, Ingress, already sneaking in here years before it’s made.)

John wanted to take his interest in AR and his background in maps and gaming and mash them all up and see what it could look like. Larry wanted it to happen within Google.

What I loved is that Eliot Peper wrote a piece for Extra Crunch just a few weeks ago about the importance of speculative fiction in the creation of startups, and also gave a guide on just what books he recommends to find your next startup.

Expect Part 2 of the Niantic EC-1 to drop early next week as we do a rolling release.

Game streaming is the new battlefield among tech giants

Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

Game streaming is quickly becoming one of the most important strategic arenas for owning users, with offerings from all major tech and gaming companies. Devin Coldewey provided a comprehensive strategic overview of the stakes involved this week, and why so much money is being poured into a technology that until now seemed impossible due to bandwidth and latency. It’s like Super Smash Bros: Tech Melee edition:

Google and Amazon bring cloud-native infrastructure and familiarity online, but is that enough to compete with the gaming know-how of Microsoft, with its own cloud clout, or Sony, which made strategic streaming acquisitions and has a service up and running already? What of the third parties like Nvidia and Valve, publishers and storefronts that may leverage consumer trust and existing games libraries to jump start a rival? It’s a wide-open field, all right.

Plus, in case you missed our live conference call, you can read the transcript of Lucas Matney and Eric Peckham talking shop from GDC.

Crypto 2.0

Andrey Suslov via Getty Images

Yes, yes, there is a crypto winter, for sure. But this is precisely the time that all the real product development and engineering work is going to take place. Longtime TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans dives into some of the most promising veins of the next-generation of blockchain and crypto technology, finding much to be excited about:

It may seem strange that, even as the public cryptocurrency frenzy of 2017-18 dies down, we seem to be in the midst of a Cambrian explosion of blockchain advances, initiatives, and iterations. But it seems that now that (some of) the get-rich-quick scam artists have been filtered away, the true believers and technical devotees can get back to work building what they believe to be the future.

Is it? Well, maybe not the future, but very possibly a nontrivial part of it. As I’ve argued before, though, cryptocurrencies and decentralized apps don’t need to conquer the mainstream and replace the existing tech megacorporates to succeed, any more than Linux had to destroy Microsoft in order to become enormously influential. All they have to do is provide a viable alternative in other to keep government and fiat currencies somewhat honest. I’m pleased to report that we’re noticeably closer to that state of affairs than we were a year ago.

How to not announce your startup (and avoid prison time)

Henrik Sorensen via Getty Images

I’ve been doing a lot of research around the new culture of Form D filings for the past few months. Those threads finally came together this week in a comprehensive overview of how startups are now filing their rounds with the SEC:

Here’s the secret about Form D filings today: the norms in Silicon Valley have changed, and Form D filings are often filed late, not at all, and many startups are advised to lie low in the hopes of avoiding stricter SEC scrutiny. What was once a fait accompli is now a deliberative process, with important decision points for founders.

Extra Crunch contacted about two dozen startup attorneys, from the biggest firms in the industry to the one-person shops with a shingle out front. Getting straight answers here has been tough, if only because no lawyer really wants to say out loud that they actively recommend their clients violate government regulations (there is that whole law license thing, which apparently lawyers care about).

The ethics of internet culture

Alexander Spatari via Getty Images

Our resident technology ethicist and humanist Greg Epstein interviewed The Atlantic correspondent Taylor Lorenz about the challenges laden with social platforms and their effects on youth culture. Far from a Manichaean view of these tools, Lorenz provides distinctive nuance, serving the good with the trenchant criticism. Lorenz from the interview:

I would say Instagram is just like a microcosm of the broader Internet in a lot of ways. Yes, there is toxic, problematic and awful stuff. There’s also a lot of positive amazing stuff. I actually tend to focus my writing mostly on the more positive things. I write about how people use any social platform, but it ends up being a lot about Instagram because most [young] people are on Instagram, to create and to connect with people.

Like all social platforms, there is a fair amount of misinformation, Nazis, things like that. Those people are always going to be on every platform and they’re going to try to exploit it. I think it’s the job of the platform to police this type of stuff. Instagram has done a better job of mitigating that type of bad content compared to YouTube and Facebook. It’s still there; you can never completely eliminate it.

Improving web accessibility

The original simplicity of the textual web has given way to much richer media content, but that transition hasn’t always been easy for users who rely on screen readers and other technologies to access one of humanity’s most important learning and knowledge resources. Accessibility consultant Beth Franssen walked Extra Crunch through the latest developments on how to make accessibility work again before lawsuits proliferate:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires US businesses that serve the public to provide equal access and accommodations to everyone, whether through a physical building or a digital experience. Just as stores provide ramps as well as stairs, websites need to accommodate people with varying abilities, from movement disorders to visual and auditory impairments. The number of website accessibility lawsuits raised against private companies more than doubled last year. A single plaintiff won $100K in a similar ADA lawsuit in 2017.

Shipping and logistics is getting a tech makeover

Our guest writer John Eden discusses the two forces that are reshaping shipping and logistics:

… technology is not the only force driving change. Regulators are taking a fresh look at the lives of workers in the gig economy, often concluding that many folks classified as independent contractors ought to be treated as employees. As we will see, this is causing a sharp uptick in the creation of small-motor carriers. At the same time, oddly enough, driver scarcity is forcing innovators in the shipping and logistics space to think very hard about how to entice new drivers into the market.

A Tale of Two (other) Transcripts

If you missed our other live conference call this week with TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino on all the announcements out of Apple’s big launch event this week, do be sure to take a read.

We are also trialing a new experiment — using feedback from Extra Crunch members — to transcript some popular Silicon Valley podcasts as a member benefit. This week, we published an episode of ‘This is Your Life in Silicon Valley’ interviewing Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf.

Our next Verified Expert

Eric Eldon published our next Verified Expert attorney, this time Cooley LLP lawyer Mike Lincoln.

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Startups Weekly: Why Lyft’s $2.2B IPO wasn’t “crazy land” or “nuts”

Lyft completed its long-awaited IPO this week, trading 21 percent higher Friday than its initial offering price of $72 per share. It closed its first day of trading at about $78 per share, up roughly 9 percent.

I spoke to IPO guru Brian Hamilton, the CEO of banking software company Sageworks, about Lyft’s offering to get a sense of how Wall Street views the buzzworthy tech unicorn. As I wrote earlier this week, Wall Street doesn’t seem to care about profitability, prioritizing growth instead. Lyft is definitely growing, quickly, and working hard to shrink its losses. Hamilton said the price per share was reasonable, and, given Lyft’s positive cash flows, he seemed confident the company will fare well on the Nasdaq this year.

He was especially clear about one thing: Lyft’s offering is nothing like Snap’s. “The camera company,” if you remember, had posted only $404.5 million in revenue ahead of its IPO, which valued it at $23.8 billion: “It’s not crazy land; it’s not nuts; it’s not Twitter, it’s not Snap; it’s reasonable actually, I’m surprised,” Hamilton told TechCrunch. “I’ve seen some of these tech companies go for much higher valuations [and] those companies commanded much higher sales multiples.”

Ultimately, Lyft commanded an 11x revenue multiple, on par with what we expect from Uber next month. Lyft could have priced higher given demand, though my Equity co-host Alex Wilhelm argued against that prospect on this special episode, where we discuss Lyft’s first day of trading.

Hamilton, like Alex and I, also emphasized the benefit of beating Uber to the public markets and debuting on the stock exchange at peak bull market: “The markets are hot, people want to put their money somewhere,” he said. “Even the people that have been on the fence want [Lyft stock].”

Here’s what else happened this week.

Uber is buying…

…Careem, its Middle Eastern counterpart. Uber will pay a whopping $3.1 billion to acquire the seven-year-old company. The deal had been rumored for months and is expected to close in Q1 2020, pending applicable regulatory approvals.

Airbnb’s road to IPO

Airbnb announced this week that it has checked in half-a-billion guests to its 6 million global participating properties. Damn. It’s also closing in on some of the larger hospitality industry incumbents like Hilton and Marriott. This paints a nice picture for a company that is more than ready to IPO and is surely preparing its pitch to public market investors. No word yet on when Airbnb will file, but it’s looking like it’s still several months out.

Deal of the week

I promised myself I wouldn’t write Casper and unicorn in the same sentence, but it seems inevitable at this point. The mattress startup raised a $100 million Series D this week at a valuation of $1.1 billion and became the newest entry to the unicorn club. Target — which once tried to acquire Casper — NEA, IVP and Norwest Venture Partners participated in the round. Casper has previously raised $240 million in equity funding from celebrity investors Leonardo DiCaprio and 50 Cent, as well as institutional investors, including Lerer Hippeau.

Startup capital

Restaurant manager Toast raises $250M at $2.7B valuation
Airwallex raises $100M at a valuation north of $1B
Vlocity nabs $60M Series C on $1B valuation
Lola.com raises $37M to take on SAP 
Boundless gets $7.8M to help immigrants navigate the green card process

Venture $$$

Jon Sakoda, a former partner at the esteemed venture capital firm NEA, has taken the wraps off his new, Cisco-backed fund, called Decibel. Sakoda can’t disclose the precise size of the fund yet, but he told TechCrunch he’s working very collaboratively with Cisco, including its corporate venture arm, Cisco Investments. Plus, 500 Startups has raised $33 million for its Middle Eastern-focused fund, 500 Falcons.

Extra Crunch

This week’s recommended read for our Extra Crunch subscribers: What’s the cost of buying users from Facebook and 13 other ad networks? Subscribe to EC here.

Podcast M&A

Spotify is making good on its promise to spend millions on podcast M&A, following its purchases of Gimlet and Anchor for $340 million. This week, the music streaming giant announced that it had acquired a small podcasting studio called Parcast, known best for true-crime and other factual serials in genres like mystery, science fiction and history.

Meet Evan Spiegel’s sister, Caroline

She spoke to TechCrunch about her first big project. Called Quinn, Caroline plans to launch a website dedicated to sexy text and audio on April 13th. She describes Quinn as “a much less gross, more fun Pornhub for women.” Read TechCrunch’s Josh Constine’s full interview with Caroline here.

#Equitypod

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos, Crunchbase News’ Alex Wilhelm and I chat about Wall Street’s appetite for unicorns, Casper’s big round and more. Then, in a special Equity Shot, we discuss Lyft’s first day trading on the Nasdaq.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

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In San Francisco, a fight over a homeless shelter shines a harsh light on a conflicted population

As of 2017, there were roughly 7,000 people living without homes in San Francisco, a number that comprises minors — a lot of them. The San Francisco Unified School District estimates that as of 2017, roughly 2,100 of the children in the school system were homeless —  a number that it said looked to be escalating, not shrinking.

While parents may not hesitate to send their offspring to these same schools, some may be uncomfortable with the idea of homeless adults and families seeking shelter in close proximity. Such appears to be the point of a GoFundMe campaign that was launched late last week called “Safe Embarcadero for All.” Its objective: to raise $100,000 for legal counsel to push against the creation of a shelter along the city’s eastern waterfront region.

The campaign is a reaction to an idea introduced earlier this month by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to turn a parking lot along Embarcadero that’s owned by the Port of San Francisco into a center that would provide health and housing services and round-the-clock stays for up to 200 of the city’s homeless residents.

It isn’t just theoretical. If the Port Commission agrees to the plan, Breed estimated the center could be open by summer. Thus the GoFundMe campaign, which has now raised $71,250 as of this writing from 180 people, some of whom presumably live in the luxury high-rise apartments nearby and others who share the  campaign organizers’ concerns that the shelter could introduce “public safety, drug use, and other problems.”

It’s a frustrating state of affairs, though some are finding inspiration in a new, rival campaign that was created yesterday in support of the center and which is fast gaining financial support.  Called a “SAFER Embarcadero for ALL,” it has already raised more than earlier GoFundMe campaign, with more than 1,021 donors  contributing more than $76,000 as of this writing, including Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who has been a frequent and public supporter of Breed and a number of her initiatives.

Lawson appears to have given $20,000; Benioff has given at least $10,000 to the campaign and is using Twitter as a platform to drum up more support.

Some are heralding their involvement as proof that tech CEOs do care about San Francisco’s homeless population, which they’re often accused of exacerbating by planting themselves in the city, paying their employees high wages, and driving up the cost of everything from rent to groceries in the process.

Even GoFundMe itself has joined sides, donating $5,000 to the new campaign in support of the homeless center or, more specifically the Coalition on Homelessness, which has been promised the monies.

“I don’t think the tech industry is doing enough about the homeless issue,” GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told the San Francisco Chronicle this morning. “We wanted to do our small part, even though we’re not located in San Francisco.”

No doubt critics will argue that it’s because GoFundMe is 25 miles south of the San Francisco, in Redwood City, that the company has less at stake.

Still, proponents of the center will take support wherever they can find it.

Indeed, Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, told the Chronicle earlier today the group is already planning to use the new funds to help with public education, to get input on the center, and to educate residents about what they misunderstand about the city’s homeless population.

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Valve is building its own high-end VR headset called ‘Index’

Valve is ready to sell its own full VR hardware getup.

The gaming giant behind some classic titles and the ubiquitous Steam store has revealed a teaser image on its site of a VR headset called the Valve Index. Alongside the photo, text reads “Upgrade your experience. May 2019” suggesting a near-term full announcement or release date of what is likely a high-end VR system.

Valve has long been a present name in virtual reality circles but it hasn’t shipped a dedicated headset of its own, instead focusing its work on the underlying software technologies. Valve has been at the forefront of the technology and was making substantial advancements while Oculus was in the process of releasing their first developer kits. Valve’s work eventually surfaced in the HTC Vive which operated on the SteamVR platform, but there hasn’t been widespread adoption from other OEMs of Valve’s VR technologies.

In a lot of ways it has been turning into a two-horse race for consumer VR platforms between Oculus and Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality. While SteamVR once seemed a likely choice to be a standard across VR devices, announced products never ended up shipping and the VR market cool-down left HTC pivoting to enterprise.

Things were just as unclear when the company laid off several of its VR hardware-focused employees a few weeks ago, leaving people to wonder whether that meant a release was never coming or one was imminent.

Well, now we know.

Now, there’s admittedly not a ton to go off of with this teaser image.

The look matches the Valve prototype headset that UploadVR found images of this past fall. That report detailed that the headset would have a display resolution similar to HTC’s Vive Pro while stretching that resolution over a wider 135-degree field-of-view. This compares to the near-110-degree FoV on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

This image is a pretty clear shot at Oculus in that while there aren’t many discernible features from the base of the headset, there is what definitely appears to be an IPD adjustment slider which allows users to define the distance between the lenses to accommodate for the space between their eyes. The exclusion of a physical IPD adjustment tool was undoubtedly the most controversial choice on Oculus’s Rift S headset, and prompted the company’s ousted founder to pen a blog post complaining about the omission.

Beyond that control, there are a couple of other things we can infer. First, this is almost definitely a PC-powered headset based on the company’s previous work, thus, the company will likely rely on their SteamVR 2.0 tracking system. The big question is then what those onboard cameras in the image are for. The most likely answer if I saw this headset from anyone else is that they were for inside-out tracking but the more likely answer is that they’re for “mixed reality” passthrough experiences, especially since the cameras both appear to be pointed forward though they are also a bit far apart.

This product’s release might not be great for Oculus, which has seemed to walk away from their position pushing high-end PC VR, but it’s far worse for HTC. The Taiwanese company’s consumer ambitions have kind of dried up in their pivot to enterprise markets though they have still seemed to be marketing towards consumers. For most users the best features of the Vive are features developed largely by Valve including the tracking system and software platform, so getting a high-end device direct from Valve seems like a very easy sell to these customers.

Again, not a huge amount to go off from this landing page, but it seems we’ll hear more in a couple months.

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Toast, the restaurant management platform, has raised $250M at a $2.7B valuation

Restaurant sales hit $825 billion last year in the US, but with margins averaging at only three to five percent per business, they’re always looking for an edge on efficiency and just generally running things in a smarter way. Now, a startup called Toast, which has built a popular platform for restaurant management, has closed a hefty round of funding to double down on that opportunity to do that.

The company has raised $250 million on a valuation of $2.7 billion, money that it will use to invest in building technology to help restaurants with marketing, recruitment and operational efficiency, as well as start to think about expanding to more territories outside the US.

The basics of the funding were flagged earlier today by Prime Unicorn Index and we reached out to the company to confirm. It is being led by TCV and Tiger Global Management, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners and T. Rowe Price Associates funds and other existing investors.

This Series E is a big bump up for the company: in its previous round in July 2018, the company was valued at $1.4 billion — partly the result of strong growth at the company. While it’s not disclosing revenue numbers or whether it is yet profitable, Toast currently serves tens of thousands of businesses — covering a range of sizes from independent venues to smaller chains — and in the last year tallied up transactions in the tens of billions of dollars, seeing growth of some 148 percent in its revenues, according to CFO Tim Barash.

The restaurant business represents a big opportunity for e-commerce companies, but there have been some notable stumbles where ambitions have not been met with success. Groupon, which spent several years acquiring and organically building a point of sale and restaurant management business, first drastically cut down and then finally called it quits and sold off its efforts, called Breadcrumb, in 2016. Amazon also pulled out of point of sale services (aimed at more than restaurants) and has in certain regions also pulled back on other restaurant efforts like its order management and delivery platform in certain regions.

Barash said in an interview that he thinks the key to why Toast has steadily grown its business through all that is because a large proportion of its own employees — some 70 percent — have worked in the food service industry themselves.

“I was first a busboy, and then I worked in pizza delivery for years,” he said. “Seventy percent of our employees have worked at restaurants, including those in our product leadership, and that helps us understand the problem.”

Restaurants, as Barash points out, are complicated. “They are essentially manufacturers and retailers at the same time, all in one small physical footprint,” and so the key to building products for them is to understand that and the challenges they face in building and running those businesses.

And that’s before you consider the many other factors that can make restaurants a dicey game, from changing cuisine tastes, to changing eating habits — many get food delivered today — to the precariousness of the commercial real estate market and so much more.

The aim of Toast is to build tools to apply data science and orderly IT processes to address whichever of those variables that can be controlled by the restaurant.

Today, Toast’s products include point of sale services as well as reporting and analytics; display systems for kitchens; online ordering and delivery interfaces; and loyalty programs. It also builds its own hardware, which includes handheld order pads, payment and ordering terminals, self-service kiosks, and displays for guests. It also offers links through to a network of some 100 partners, such as Grubhub for takeout food, when a restaurant does not cover those services or functions directly, to help stitch together services to work on its platform.

Tomorrow, the plan is to use the funding to enhance all of those with more advanced features that speak to some of the bigger issues and concerns Barash said its customers are voicing today.

That will include better and more services aimed at guest engagement and retention; better ways to recruit and keep people in an industry that has a high turnover of employees; and of course more tools to address how efficiently a business is operating to make it more profitable. The company has committed some $1 billion in the next five years to R&D to build more hardware and software.

Having access to this kind of tech and platform is a big deal especially for independently owned places that hope to compete against bigger chains without having to compromise on their core competency: making unique and delicious food.

In the meantime, Barash said that while Toast itself is no stranger to approaches from larger players itself — he declined to say who but said many who have ambitions to do more business with the restaurant industry had approached it over the years — the company’s long term vision is to grow bigger and remain its own boss.

It’s an ambition that has hit the spot with investors that have an appetite for high growth businesses.

“At TCV, we invest in companies that have the potential to reshape entire industries. By providing restaurants of all sizes with access to innovative technology, Toast is leveling the playing field and leading the industry’s transition to the cloud,” said David Yuan, general partner at TCV, in a statement, who is joining the board with this round. “Our investment will enable Toast to extend their platform beyond point-of-sale and guest-facing technology, and in doing so, create a powerful SaaS platform with a superlative business model. We’re excited to partner with Toast as they accelerate the growth of the community they serve.”

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Equity Shot: Lyft is public — what does that mean for other IPO-ready unicorns?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Sure, we just aired a new episode yesterday but things keep happening, and after talking about this crop of IPOs for so long, we can’t help ourselves. (You can follow us on Twitter, here and here, by the way, if Equity isn’t enough for you.)

Lyft, as you know, started trading today, closing the loop on a long saga that brought the smaller of the two domestic ridehailing unicorns to the public markets.

After so much speculation about which of the two would get out the door first, Lyft did, and now we get to see what sort of pricing shenanigans happen next. Does Uber drop rates and punish Lyft? Or does Uber work to cut its losses, lowering its expenses and providing a clearer path towards profitability before its April IPO roadshow kicks off? (Not a path to profitability, mind; Uber and Lyft need to show a path to the direction of profitability first.)

We hit all the basis, going over the company’s pricing path, its varying share figures, final raise metrics, and more. If you want the hard stuff, we’ve got a shot for you.

Now that the Lyft IPO has wrapped, we’ll be shifting our focus to Pinterest, Zoom and of course, Uber. Stay tuned.

Ok, now we’re done. Until next Friday. Unless something else happens.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

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Remote workers and nomads represent the next tech hub

Amid calls for a dozen different global cities to replace Silicon Valley — Austin, Beijing, London, New York — nobody has yet nominated “nowhere.” But it’s now a possibility.

There are two trends to unpack here. The first is startups that are fully, or almost fully, remote, with employees distributed around the world. There’s a growing list of significant companies in this category: Automattic, Buffer, GitLab, Invision, Toptal and Zapier all have from 100 to nearly 1,000 remote employees.

The second trend is nomadic founders with no fixed location. For a generation of founders, moving to Silicon Valley was de rigueur. Later, the emergence of accelerators and investors worldwide allowed a wider range of potential home bases. But now there’s a third wave: a culture of traveling with its own, growing support networks and best practices.

You don’t have to look far to find startup gurus and VCs who strongly advise against being remote, much less a nomad. The basic reasoning is simple: Not having a location doesn’t add anything, so why do it? Startups are fragile, so it’s best to avoid any work practice that could disrupt delicate growth cycles.

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Apple sells wireless charging AirPods, cancels charger days later

“Works with AirPower mat”. Apparently not. Looks like Apple doesn’t treat customers with the same “high standard” of care it apparently reserves for its hardware quality. 9 days after launching its $199 wireless charging AirPods headphones touting compatibility with the forthcoming Apple AirPower inductive charger mat, Apple has just scrapped AirPower entirely. It’s an uncharacteristically sloppy move for the “it just works” company. This time it didn’t.

Apple clearly knew AirPower was borked before launching the new AirPods wireless charging case on March 20th. Failing to be transparent about that is an abuse of customer trust. That’s especially damaging for a company constantly asking us to pre-order new products and that’s known for planned obsolescence. It should really find some way to make it up to people, especially given it has $245 billion in cash on hand.

TechCrunch broke the news of AirPower’s demise. “After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering in an emailed statement today.

That comes as a pretty sour surprise for people who bought the $199 wireless charging AirPods that mention AirPower compatability or the $79 standalone charging case with a full-on diagram of how to use AirPower drawn on the box.

Apple first announced the AirPower mat in 2017 saying it would arrive the next year along with a wireless charging case for AirPods. But when the new AirPods launched March 20th with no mention of AirPower in the press release, suspicions mounted. Now we know Apple was concerned about devices overheating, so it decided not to ship what could become the next Galaxy Note 7 fire hazard.

The new AirPods with wireless charging case even had a diagram of AirPower on the box. Image via Ryan Jones

There are plenty of other charging mats that work with AirPods, and maybe Apple will release a future iPhone or MacBook that can wireleslly pass power to the pods. But anyone hoping to avoid janky third-party brands and keep it in the Apple family is out of luck for now.

Luckily, some who bought the new AirPods with wireless charging case are still eligible for a refund. But if you got yours personalized with an engraving (I had my phone number laser-etched on since I constantly lose them), there are no refunds allowed. And then there are all the people who bought Apple Watches, or iPhone 8 or later models who were anxiously awaiting AirPower. We’ve asked Apple if it will grant any return exceptions.

Combined with the disastrously fragile keyboards on new MacBooks and Apple’s recent vaporware services event where it announced Apple Card, TV+, and Arcade despite them being months from launch, the world’s cash-richest company looks like a mess. Apple risks looking us unreliable as Android if it can’t get its act together.

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Lyft closes up 9% on first day of trading

Pink confetti fell from the ceiling Friday as Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer celebrated their company’s IPO. The stock offering was a bonafide success, with shares selling for $87.24 apiece Friday morning — 21 percent higher than Lyft’s initial $72 share price — and closing at $78.29 per share.

Lyft raised roughly $2.3 billion Thursday evening, hours before ringing the opening bell of the Nasdaq on Friday around noon Pacific. The IPO gave Lyft an initial market cap of about $24 billion, representing an 11x revenue multiple and a 1.6x step-up from its most recent private valuation of $15.1 billion. 

On Bloomberg TV, Lyft’s co-founders discussed the company’s long-term prospects, including international growth, autonomous vehicle plans, the future of car ownership and insurance.

“We are confident that the business will be very profitable,” Green told Emily Chang. “We are making tremendous progress going after this once-in-a-generation shift where this entire industry, a $1.2 trillion market, could flip from an ownership model to a service model and we are leading the way there.”

The pair opted to host their IPO in Los Angeles, Lyft’s largest market.

“We want to make a point that you can both invest in communities and build a great business,” Zimmer said. “It was fun to ring the bell with several members of our driver community and have many of them participate in our IPO because we gave them a bonus to do so.”

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